Maryland’s utilities propose spending $104 million on statewide electric-vehicle charging network

Source: By Colin Campbell, The Baltimore Sun • Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Utility companies and other stakeholders are proposing a $104 million plan to install 24,000 charging stations across the state, in what would amount to the largest electric vehicle charging network outside California.

Just over 10,000 Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, Teslas and other electric vehicles quietly plied Maryland’s roads last year, but the state wants to expand that number to 300,000 by 2025.

To help the state achieve that ambitious goal and support the growing popularity of these plug-in electric vehicles, utility companies are proposing to spend $104 million to support a statewide network of charging stations.

The program, supported by environmental groups and other stakeholders, would help build out a network of 24,000 residential, workplace and public charging stations, constituting the nation’s largest except for California’s. Utility customers would be asked to pay 25 cents to 42 cents more a month to support the program, currently a proposal pending before the state’s Public Service Commission.

“We see this as an extension of the service we offer,” said John Murach, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.’s manager of energy efficiency programs. “We deliver energy to our customers; we’ll be delivering the fuel for their vehicles.”

This is not a build-it-and-they-will-come initiative, said one of the nation’s top electric vehicle researchers.

“They will come anyway. They’ll come before you build it,” said said Gil Tal, research director at the Institute of Transportation Studies’ Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California-Davis.

Sales of electric vehicles are growing rapidly, up 26 percent last year even as overall vehicle sales slipped 1.8 percent, and some see a looming tipping point where demand will accelerate even more.

But to fuel that growth, the cars need places to charge their batteries. Maryland is home to about 1,200 charging stations, most of them in the Baltimore region and Washington suburbs.

California, where electric vehicles have gained wide acceptance, already faces congestion at its charging stations, Tal said.

“We need way more than what we already have in the streets,” Tal said. “If Maryland will start now, it will be a more balanced approach.”

While the proposal would increase customers’ monthly bills, BGE, Potomac Electric Power Co., Delmarva Power and Potomac Edison Co. said it would lower rates eventually by better using the state’s power grids. For BGE customers, the proposal would add a monthly surcharge of 35 cents.

The comment period on the utilities’ petition ends Tuesday and the commission could make a decision in the next few months.

The money would go toward subsidizing the installation of home, workplace and public charging stations.

BGE would spend more than $48 million on its share of the network. Of that, $17 million would be spent on 1,000 public, BGE-owned stations; $7.5 million would subsidize the installation of 15,000 residential charging stations; and $10.8 million would subsidize 2,125 workplace and multi-unit dwelling stations. The utility would spend another $7.1 million on outreach, deployment and other costs.

Pepco would spend $32.2 million, Potomac Energy would spend $12.4 million, and Delmarva would spend $11.9 million to build out the network in their respective service areas, according to the proposal.

The utilities combined to commit more than $12 million of that spending to an “innovation fund,” dedicated to placing nearly 500 stations in traditionally underserved areas.